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Northern Gas Pipelines: Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) 2001 Editorials

8-8-01:  TORONTO STAR, by Alison Blackduck--  ...  Every time there's some sort of industrialalison2.png development proposed in lands occupied or used extensively by indigenous people, the `Vanishing Indian' makes a special guest appearance in the news media.  ... From what I've been reading, you'd think the Gwich'in will disappear from the face of the Earth as soon as the first drill bit hits refuge soil.  You'd think the expectant mothers of the 130,000 strong Porcupine caribou herd will get so flummoxed by the flurry of industrial activity happening on their calving grounds that they'll forget how to give birth.  I doubt either doomsday scenario will happen.  (Note:  This is an outstanding commentary, worth reading.  All Alaskan Native and Canadian Aboriginal friends this author has known, love the land and the creatures of it.   They walk a delicate path with the need for culture and subsistence on this side and the need for education and some material comfort on that side.  The great indigenous leaders remembered by history will be those who courageously walk the path: protecting and savoring tradition while professionally manipulating corporate strategy.  See our 4-21-01 editorial below.-dh)

8-6-01:  Context for this editorial in 8-2000 Archives under 8-6-01 date. 

Readers may note issue complexity and some irony:  Alaska Gwich'in oppose North Slope village residents and Alaska's position on ANWR; Yukon government financially supports Yukon Gwich'in opposition to ANWR; Alaska government supports Arctic Power; 39% of Porcupine caribou herd calves died in spring '01 of natural causes, many other adults perished in river crossings; Prudhoe Bay caribou populations have increased since 1970s in human-protected environment; Alaska supports Yukon on highway pipeline southern route;  Alaska, Yukon and North Slope residents side with environmental advocates opposing ANWR-adjacent northern gas pipeline route; environmental community withholds support for southern route while firmly opposing Alaska and North Slope residents on ANWR..  While some decision makers are identifying the big picture of these linking issues, one suggests that ultimate, successful pipeline routing and ANWR decisions can only be achieved in a cooperative atmosphere involving mediation of major stakeholder interests...and realistic compromise.  Continuing disagreement and intransigence will likely produce greatest success for constituencies advocating limited northern development.   -dh         

"Voice of the times (Published June 11, 2001)  FIELD & STREAM TELLS . . .Outright lies

ADD FIELD & Stream magazine to the list of national publications carrying bone-stupid editorials on the ANWR issue. The magazine, which claims to represent the interests of American hunters and fishermen, recently carried a piece by writer George Reiger filled with virtually every lie ever advanced by environmental extremists on the issue of drilling on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Among the more notable pieces of disinformation:
A claim that wolves and grizzly bears "have completely disappeared from the Prudhoe region" and that they were "likely casualties of bored, off-duty workers with rifles." Actually oil workers have been forbidden by their employers from bringing guns to the North Slope oil fields for well more than 30 years. Violating the rule is a firing offense and violations are so rare as to be non-existent. The predators have shied away from human activities in the oil field, increasing the survival rate of caribou calves without apparent impact on their own populations.
A statement that in Prince William Sound, 12 years after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, "long stretches of coast remain eerily empty." Actually residual impacts of the oil spill are limited and difficult to detect. The only long stretches of coast remaining empty are in the otherwise empty head of George Reiger.
A claim that Alaska's oil producers tried to sneak tankers loaded with oil across the Pacific for illicit sales to Japan; and that the so-called scam was discovered and exposed by environmentalists. There is no truth in those claims, so no realistic response is possible.
A claim that the oil companies promised in pre-pipeline days that Alaskan oil was needed in the Lower 48 and would never be exported. For a time, the law would not allow exporting of Alaskan oil. That law was ultimately thrown out as discriminatory against Alaska and unnecessary to protect the nation's oil supply. And as a practical matter, not much oil has ever been exported from Alaska.
This is not a first offense in Field & Stream's case. It has perpetuated the lie about oil workers carrying guns and shooting wolves for years, even though the information could easily be checked. But checking is an alien concept in truly sleazy journalism, which is what Field & Stream and George Reiger are practicing here.
The magazine's bone-headed positions on Alaska issues are difficult to understand. Alaska is a small part of its market, but Alaska has a higher percentage of outdoor-oriented men and women than any other state in the union.
Those who love the outdoors should expect better from one of the nation's leading outdoor magazines."


(Sandra Newman is a Vuntut Gwich'in resident of Old Crow, Y.T..  In the interest of fairness, please also see her opinion here): 


4/21/01:  Author's Report and Commentary (below):   Gwich'in Steering Committee representative, Faith Gemmill of Arctic Village, Ak. provided an Earth Day keynote address today at Anchorage's Town Square Park (Photo: right), to a scattered audience of about 100.  About half of the hastily erected, folding tables, staffed by environmental groups, promoted anti-ANWR themes. 

Gwich'in Commentary

One listening to the gentle voice of Gwich'in Steering Committee spokeswoman, Faith Gemmill, is attracted to her dedication.  Growing up in Arctic Village, she recalls teachings of village elders: "We came from the caribou. We made an agreement with the caribou: the people would retain a piece of the caribou's heart; caribou would retain a part of the people's heart.  We are one.  We are a part of each other.  If anything happens to the caribou, it would happen to the people."

Audience rapport established, the soft voice remains soothing, but the message becomes strident, transmitting anger, as when she described the effects of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act "To me, ANSCA divided the Native people of Alaska.  It was an injustice, an assimilation make our values monetary.  ANSCA brought many negative impacts, a flood of money and our people don't know how to deal with it...alcoholism, drug abuse and death.  If the coastal plain were developed, that's what would happen to our Gwich'in People."  She made this statement as an obviously inebriated 'street person' approached the podium on shaky legs, standing between her and the audience for a brief time, then turning to leave the park as she made the last statement with an editorial of his own, "Right On!"

Having segued to the issue of energy exploration, she said, "There is only one word to describe the issue of ANWR: 'genocide'!  This sums up for the Gwich'in what the state, the Federal Administration and the oil companies are doing."

The author believes that Ms. Gemmill may be of honest intention, but emotional rhetoric unencumbered by fact always leaves an honest audience with an intellectual hang-over.  In fact, perhaps her honest intention could actually be doing her people a disfavor, as follows: 

  • Herd size.  On the North Slope, the author has seen wobbly legged, caribou calves literally consumed by clouds of voracious mosquitoes in the swampy tundra lowlands.  Any visitor will see small groups of the noble beasts herd their youngsters up out of the muskeg onto the gravel roads where a small breeze was sufficient to repel the attackers.  The oil companies built those roads and drilling pads under strict permitting guidelines; five feet high, they protect the underlying permafrost from melting...and give the caribou respite from the dangerous pests...and save lives.  While the Arctic caribou heard in the Prudhoe Bay area has undergone the usual expansion and contraction of all wild herds, in general it is bigger and healthier than it was before the oil industry came.  Could not environmentally sensitive Coastal Plain exploration and development maintain or improve the Porcupine Caribou herd which frequents that area in the summer and provides meat representing up to 80% of the Gwich'in diet? 
  • Herd protection.   At Prudhoe Bay, the companies cooperate with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in protecting the animals and other wildlife from poaching.  The protection enjoyed by the animals must in some ways be reflected in the current larger size of the herds at Prudhoe Bay.  Would not conscientious fish and game protection policies be applied by energy company managers to the Coastal Plain as well, and would it not be likely that such protection could result in larger meat herds for the villagers, or at least not a degraded meat supply?
  • Timing.  Oil exploration in ANWR would occur only in the winter months, when the caribou are not present.  Only if oil is found, would a small amount of surface area be required for facilities.  The facilities could be operated in such a way that their presence is not an issue to migrating caribou.  One can see actual films of scientific tests performed on the Porcupine Caribou herd which confirm this fact.  When generalizations are made to the effect that 'development of ANWR would destroy the caribou', I'm reminded of old debating tricks employed to redirect the audience's attention from merits of the case.
  • Other issues.  While the writer cannot understand Ms. Gemmill' s motivation for her attack on the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, lobbied into existence by some of Alaska's greatest Native leaders, one could make an observation.  While Alaska Native people have unique cultures and histories to be respected, they are also human beings graced to live in a free country; 'graced' because the political structure affecting indigenous people of the Russian Far East, for example, by any comparison, has been less kindly and demanded more rigor than the government enjoyed by Alaskans.  Many Alaska Native people have grown up, been educated and attained educational, professional or political goals never envisioned before ANCSA.  If ANWR is tapped to help support America's energy supply, there is a chance some Gwich'in may obtain employment there from, be trained or educated thereby.  One supposes Ms. Gemmill believes any prosperity would be wasted and abused.  This citizen thinks she's selling her people short--especially 'generation d' growing up in the Internet era.  Sure, anyone economically benefiting from ANWR would have the freedom to abuse the bounty.  But we are taught that freedom comes with responsibility.  With the freedom to make a living comes the responsibility to live well.  If certain individuals--of any culture--choose to abuse money, the fault lies not in the money or its source, but in the individual choices made.  Perhaps a nobler pursuit for Ms. Gemmill would be devoting her considerable energy and skill to inculcate a sense of responsibility within the Gwich'in Steering Committee where she perceives it to be lacking.  Were that done, her culture could be celebrated and even protected by the ultimate cultural armor: a love of facts, knowledge and intellectual honesty.  (Comments will be posted here, space available, upon request.  Rv.5/4/01 -dh)

Natural Resources Defense Council Reports ANWR Setback

Former Alaskan supports drilling  By JOHN M. SWEET, "Voice of the Times", April 4, 2001 (Here are other Alaska resident opinions, Messrs. Portman, Reudrich, etc.):

I am strongly in favor of opening the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration. I am a retired petroleum geologist with a 35-year career in oil and gas exploration; just over a third of which was in Alaska. I was exploration manager for ARCO at the time of the Prudhoe Bay discovery in 1968.

There is no evidence that I know of that caribou have suffered at the expense of the oil field at Prudhoe Bay. They grazed contentedly around our buildings. There is much empirical evidence that they commingle quite well.

Since the wildlife people began to keep records, the caribou herds have exploded and crashed in numbers, and the last I heard they seldom if ever seem to know why. If the experts can not learn what affects the natural dynamics of the various herds, who can rightly say oil activity is a detriment to them?

The likelihood of another Prudhoe is very small. It would be a great boon to the nation if a field half the size or Prudhoe were found. There is also a real likelihood that, if drillable structures exist, they may be either dry or non-commercial, in which event industry would pull everything out, and the caribou would revert to being alone. In that event, industry would have used much less than one, one thousandths of the refuge. This would be sad for the national interest, but should make the environmentalists happy.

It is argued a discovery might have only a six months supply, an erroneous figure often quoted by green activists. Actually the government's minimum estimate is twice that amount. That lowball approach was used as an argument to oppose the trans Alaska pipeline, but Prudhoe has been producing since 1977 and is expected to produce at least until 2010 and perhaps until 2018-20. It is physically impossible to produce oil that fast, and unwise from the standpoint of oil recovery efficiency.

As nice as theoretical -- but largely pie in the sky -- solutions sound, here is the situation:

We are currently producing 8.085 million barrels per day and using 18.615 million barrels per day. We are 57 percent dependent on oil energy from other countries, a number of which could be destabilized in a literal or figurative heart beat.

To make matters worse, our national reserves are about 21 billion barrels and we are producing that at the rate of about 10 percent per year. It doesn't take the proverbial rocket scientist to figure out where we are heading. If memory serves, when I retired 15 years ago our reserves were about 50 billion barrels. The decline is all too real, unfortunately. By the way, 12 percent of this daily production comes from Prudhoe Bay. That represents a lot of proverbial eggs in one basket.

I agree with those who say exploring the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge will not solve our energy problems, but it would be a key and substantial building block. Others would be in various offshore areas that are prospective but off limits because of the NIMBY syndrome. The NIMBY folk love the end product of the oil exploration results, but shun what they believe will be the end of the world coming from front-end exploration and development. The world has not stopped turning around the Gulf of Mexico because of oil production.

It is unfortunate that many are not contributing in a positive way to the debate because of ignorance and hysterical ranting. The new chairman of the Democratic party, Terry McAuliffe, should be adding responsibly to the debate, but likewise was not constructive. It was irresponsible of him to say that the Republicans favor "spilling oil in Alaska", and "putting derricks in Yellowstone Park."

There is empirical evidence of the lack of devastation from oil. I ride my bike extensively in Arizona in the winter and around the county roads near Boulder in the summer. I never cease to be amazed how in the deserts of Arizona, Bermuda grass manages to grow through four, six. eight and even what looks like 10 inches of macadam near the edges of all the highways. Macadam is crushed rock held together by tar, which is residual oil. I continually have to kill vegetation in my drive, but that ony has a nominal three inches of macadam.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but one has to behold something before knowing whether it is beautiful. Probably fewer than one in 100,000 has any concept of what the Arctic coastal plain is like. It is stark except for those few weeks in the summer when it blossoms. Dare I say that few of those who extol its beauty have any concept of what it really looks like, and I am not implying it is not beautiful in its own way.

Those who advocate no exploration like to talk about keeping it pristine for posterity "just because it is there." That is their right, but how long is posterity? -- A thousand years? Ten thousand years? I wonder if in those time frames all will not have returned to its pristine-like state. By then there may even be a more "modern" definition of pristine.

I believe oil exploration should occur, and the impact will be manageable and tolerable.  (John M. Sweet is a former Alaska legislator now living in Green Valley, Arizona. This article is an excerpted version of one first printed in the Boulder, Co., Daily Camera. )

Scott McMurren, L.A. Times, October 7, 2000 Home Edition, ID: 0000095436 Metro Section, 300 words.  * Re "The Better Friend," editorial, Oct. 1: "Your editorial misses the point regarding our national energy predicament. Thankfully, both candidates support the development of clean-burning natural gas reserves. But they're clearly divided on the issue of domestic oil production, particularly in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve...."  Scott McMurren engaged in this interesting exchange with a Nando Times writer, obviously as opinionated about Alaska as she is uninformed (The italicized words are hers and his are boldface):  "The oil industry, from which Gov. Bush hails, loves to point to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, as an example of how it has drilled in that state without damaging the environment. And yet oil spills in Prudhoe average 500 a year - hardly an exemplary record."  C'mon Bonnie. When a shutoff valve fails and five gallons of solvent, or drilling mud, or jet fuel spills on the pad, that's characterized as a spill. I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP. You should see the spill response teams now in place on the North Slope. It's an incredible industry, fueled by the specter of another "Exxon Valdez" disaster. The reporting of spills as small as 5 gallons is indicative of the strong cultural heritage AGAINST wanton desecration of our environment.  The oil industry's definition of "environmentally sensitive" also differs quite radically from yours and mine. How can thousands of caribou, polar and grizzly bear, eagles, birds and other species who survive in what has been dubbed, "America's Serengeti," coexist with hundreds of miles of roads and pipelines for the dozens of oil fields?" HA HA HA! Bonnie, it's clear you've never been STUCK in Prudhoe Bay in a CARIBOU jam. Thousands of them wander through the oil patch year-round. Boy do they stink. WHEW. But I've gotten some great photos. No telephoto lens necessary. "Those roads and pipelines would block the movement of wildlife from one part of habitat to another."  Bonnie, it appears you're taking this assumption at face value without reviewing the migratory patterns of the caribou--or any other fish or fowl which populates the Far North...crossing back and forth along the Haul Road and all over Prudhoe Bay.  "According to the Wilderness Society, rivers and streambeds, key habitat for wildlife, would have to be stripped of millions of tons of gravel for roads, airstrips and construction. How are fish, birds and bears supposed to outlive that incredible invasion? They might as well be crated and dumped into midtown Manhattan. If that does not do them in, then certainly construction of living quarters for thousands of workers and the air pollution oil companies move into the middle of ANWR will spell certain death for these stunning creatures."  Give me a million doggone breaks, Bonnie. As a fellow journalist, I would encourage you to check your facts. First of all, nobody's stripping millions of tons of gravel out of key wildlife habitat. You think you really care about the wildlife up here? How about the people who live here? In addition to the oversight by local, state and federal agencies, the Alaskan engineers and designers who construct a drilling environment have to pass muster from literally DOZENS of watchdog agencies. Never mind the lawyers from the Wilderness Society, whoever they are. How about the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, the Nature Conservancy and he rest of 'em? Trust me, they all have offices here. I see them at the coffee shop. They leave their Volvos running to keep them warm in the cold September air while they go get their lattes!  "Now, here's the part I really love. Oil companies have been battling environmental groups for more than a decade for the right to drill in the ANWR. But what they don't tell you is they already have the right to drill along 95 percent of the North Slope for oil and gas exploration. That 95 percent is not enough. They want the whole enchilada. And better yet, a 1987 Department of Interior Report (issued while corporate friend President Reagan was in charge of the department) found there's less than a one-in-five chance of discovering recoverable oil under Alaska's coastal plain. That report also noted if oil were found, it would probably only satisfy about one percent of U.S. oil needs or a total of 90 days worth of oil."  Take a deep breath, Bonnie. Having the "right to drill" and drilling are two different things. It's an option to spend millions and millions of dollars on a gamble that could result in a dry hole. In fact, they've already drilled an exploratory well in ANWR, just like they do all over the North Slope. It's difficult to find the drill site now. The oil companies, including Chevron and BP, were required to return the area to its natural state.  But back to your accusation that "they" want the "whole enchilada". Wow.   Fact is, as Americans, we should encourage the development of our natural resources, especially when it's a national security issue.  Witness the French: they were so concerned about being held in economic bondage by the Arab nations, that they went out in the 1970s and developed a nuclear power industry, which supplies more than 30% of the power in France today. The nuclear power industry enjoys an unprecedented positive approval in the country because it enables France to maintain its sovereignty in a tangible sense: energy policy.  "Still, Gov. Bush sides with the oil companies, and gives them carte blanche, which affords voters tremendous insight into how he would operate as president. So too with Vice President Al Gore. Bush sides with corporate interests to the detriment of consumers and the environment. Gore sides with consumers, but really needs to develop a long-term approach."    I love it! With one fell swoop you characterize corporate interests as anti-environment and anti-consumer. Frankly, I would consider a radical environmental policy as much more detrimental to consumers-witness today's high oil prices as a result of our unwillingness to stand up and take responsibility for our own energy needs.  "You decide who represents your interests."   Thanks, Bonnie, for your impartial characterization of the "untold story" in American energy policy...NOT!    (Scott McMurren is a 22-year resident of Anchorage, where he lives with his wife and two children. You can email him at:,2107,500262143-500405363-502451050-0,00.html      

Dave Harbour sent the following to the letters editor, Washington Times, 9/27/2000; edited version printed 9/29/00.  Dear Editor: Your recent articles on Alaskan energy potential for the nation should be read by every voter and every school child.  Alaska's enormous reserves of natural gas and oil could be the catalyst of an effective, new national energy policy.  Alaska already preserves most of the public lands in America with wilderness alone exceeding the size of Idaho.  Enough, already!  If politicians would just hold off on 'locking up' even more of our land for special interest votes and concentrate on making America secure, Alaskans could help fellow citizens:

  • reduce imported energy from its present growth rate approaching 60%
  • reduce the balance of payments deficit, keeping America's wealth at home
  • improve the world's environment by reducing the number of tankers importing energy to the country
  • provide hundreds of thousands of new jobs throughout the US
  • reduce our dependence on OPEC pricing and supply
  • enable our armed forces to focus more on defending America than defending foreign energy provinces
  • reduce energy cost burdens to the most vulnerable in our society: the poor and seniors on fixed incomes
I'll leave you with a question as we approach winter with gasoline, natural gas and fuel oil prices rising.  BLM is evaluating another 70 million acres of Alaska for possible wilderness designation to serve the President's 'legacy'; where, one humbly asks, is the logic?"


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